In the 'twilight zone': How Stanford approaches physician buy-in for wearable tech 

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Stanford (Calif.) Medicine has invested millions of dollars into wearables such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit to research their effectiveness in detecting patients' vitals, Insider reported Aug. 18. 

Stanford has been working with Apple on a study to assess whether smartwatches can detect irregular heartbeats, and the university also is exploring whether other consumer devices like Fitbits and Oura Rings can give physicians better insights into patients' health by taking more frequent and accurate measurements compared to office visits. 

The health system's goal is to determine whether the data collected from wearables is useful to physicians and then how to efficiently extract it from the devices, Michael Snyder, PhD, who leads many of Stanford's wearables projects, told the publication.

While Stanford's EHR can't currently pull wearable data into health records in real time, the health system's researchers developed a separate database that can compile medical records, data from wearable devices and other information that patients share. It's unclear how wearables compare to clinical-grade heart rate monitors in detecting irregular heartbeats, but passively taking readers from smartwatches potentially could help physicians establish a better baseline for heart activity, Dr. Snyder said. 

"There are circadian rhythms, there's just natural fluctuations during the day," he said, adding that at the physician's office "they're literally measuring you for 15 seconds. It's just a very poor measurement, and the devices are measuring 24/7. Some of those measurements are so much more accurate, so much more reproducible." 

Stanford's physicians are split over whether the data from consumer devices is valuable, which is why the health system is investigating the technology, Dr. Snyder said. 

"Everybody sees it coming," he said. "We're in this sort of twilight zone where some are very actively embracing it, [and] others are more dismissive." 

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